You can Learn a Lot in the Belly of a Whale
By John Brentlinger
Now the word of the Lord came unto Jonah the son of Amittai saying, Get up, go to
Nineveh that great city and cry against it, for their wickedness is come up before me. But Jonah rose up to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. Jonah 1:1-3
The real subject in the book of Jonah is not the whale. The real question in this passage is: "What sort of men does God use?"
So, here is Jonah. He wasn't the brightest bulb in the box. He thought he could actually get away from God. You know, that is some pretty shortsighted thinking, but that's just what he did. So he made it to the port city of Joppa, bought a ticket on a ocean liner, thinking he was smarter than God.
Now, as a brief aside, in theology there is the term: Omnipotence; it is used to describe an attribute of God, and it means that He can do whatever He wills to do. Why? H-e-l-l-o - because He is God. Having created all things after the counsel of His own will, He has the power over all things; remember the potter
and the clay? Oh yeah, that's still in effect. But Jonah apparently didn't know about that one, or he thought he had a free will to do as he pleased, and we can see how that idea worked out.
So, he gets on the boat, they set sail, and what do you know, God was out in the ocean. And it says that God sent out a great wind into the sea, and you know the rest of the story. Big storm, sailors were horribly frightened, they tried to
lighten the ship, meanwhile, our hero Jonah was down in a hammock, listening to Bon Jovi on his Ipod, well, he was sleeping like a baby.
The sailors woke him up, asked him how he could sleep, they took a vote, and threw Jonah overboard. The wind stopped, the sea was calm, the ship made for Tarshish, and then the story gets really good.
It says that God had prepared a great fish to swallow Jonah. Omnipotence, remember? If God can create the world and all things in it, is should come as no surprise that he can start a typhoon, still the wind, or talk to a fish. That stuff
seems pretty simple compared to creating say, a leaf, the sun, a duck billed Platypus, a snow- drop anemone, a Tasmanian devil, or Emily
As creator of all things He can do whatever he wants, and that is what He does. So, the big fish swallows our hero, our hero is in the belly of the fish for three
days and three nights. At last, a real life account of someone being lower than whale dung. And in the belly of the great fish, he couldn't use his cell phone,
couldn't text, tweet, couldn't watch UFC or baseball, do the crossword or Sudoku. All he could do was think and pray, especially pray. (see Psalm 42 & 88)
And so God spoke to the fish, and the fish -- (Remember? Even the winds, sea and fish obey him.) vomited Jonah onto dry land, by this time, wiser, and I might add, somewhat smellier, his eyes probably burned, and I'll wager he had no appetite. Ever seen the inside of a fish? Not pretty.
So God says again to Jonah, get up, go to Nineveh and preach. And this time, he does what God tells him to do. Jonah is proof that you can learn a lot in the belly of a whale. So he preaches, the city repents, and God does as He pleases, omnipotence, remember?
So, what qualifications did Jonah have to be a preacher? If he had received that message from God today, he would grab a ticket for an aeroplane, wouldn't have time for a fast train; he would have left immediately for the nearest cemetery, err, seminary, sorry, I get them confused; where he would have learned ermeneutics, homiletics and church polity, how to lead music, how to be a team
player, and et cetera. And he still wouldn't know how to preach. Why? Because you don't learn that from a textbook. You learn it in the desert, in a jail cell,
or in the belly of a whale.
What qualifications did he have? Lets see, stubbornness, rebellion, ignorance are at the top of the list. What could we possibly learn from the belly of a whale:
When God chose leaders and preachers in the Old Testament, and when Jesus chose disciples in the New Testament, he took rough, tough, unlearned men and equipped them to do his work. Education and other character flaws, especially the Apostle Paul, God used the circumstances of life to grind it out of them. He had to empty them of themselves and their self will before He could use them. He had to make
room in their lives for the truth, and they learned to tell the truth through shipwreck, stonings, beatings, in great perils, thrown in jail, hunger, being hunted by presidents, I mean kings; the truth is this:
Jonah is an example of the kind of person God uses, just a normal, stubborn, average guy. God did not look for some silver tongued, musically inclined,
good looking, seminary trained, golfing buddy, robot team player. No, He uses people just like you and I, not too smart, not too great, just normal, Jonah-like
people. And that is a good thing. Can I get an Amen?